I was recently approached by a fine young high school student named Danni who asked if I would be the interview subject for a class project. I did it gladly! And, I think there ended up being some information in the interview that I haven’t shared here in my blog. So, I thought I’d share it with you as well. I hope you learn something new. If you have any questions for me, let me know via the form on our blog.
Here Is the Interview:
First what is your name.
What Is Your Job Title?
President of Vocal Coach LLC. Vocal teacher and coach.
What Is Your Job Description or What Do You Actually Do?
I have been training singers around the world for over 50 years, including all levels from award-winning professionals to beginners. I train singers, speakers, actors, voice actors (do voiceovers for commercials, movies). I also create curriculum and training materials that are used by all levels form homeschool to colleges. Hard copies and downloads have sold over 2,000,000 around the world. I regularly work with all ages from kindergarten to professional adult.
What Schooling or Training Did You Need for This Position?
At the least, formal training in vocal pedagogy (how to teach voice) and performance. Also, music theory, basic piano and some acting.
Where Did You Go to School? What Did You Study or What Was Your Major?
I was a voice major at Roosevelt University in Chicago, but much of my most valuable training came from working with exceptional classical and pop groups including the Chicago Symphony, Lyric Opera, recording studios in L.A., and singing all over the world doing contemporary music.
How Did You Get Interested in Your Career?
I was brought up in a musical home. My mother was a voice teacher and my uncle, Samuel Barber, one of the most-played American composers in history. He was a friend of President and Jackie Kennedy and showed me the power and influence music can have.
What Do You Like About Your Job?
Everything! I get to help people, young and old, discover their voices. I help them explore the possibilities of expression which will help them an communicators for a lifetime.
What Are Some Disadvantages About Your Job? What Would You Do if Anything, Differently About Your Career?
The challenge with being an independent entrepreneur is you are forging your own way. I did my training and then sort of made it up as I went along with lots of brilliant mentoring by those who knew more than me. With no business or marketing background my wife and I created a highly successful publishing and training company. We give all credit to God.
What Is the Average Starting Salary/Wage of Someone in Your Trade?
The starting salary of a voice coach is zero and hopefully goes up from there. I had no guarantees and worked other jobs for many years until it could stand on its own. It’s not an easy way for most people to make a living. You have to be “called” and inspired.
How Many Hours Per Week Does Your Job Require?
We traveled the world for 20 years, 10 months a year which took all our time. I was also writing and creating materials and composing music during this time. So, doing what I did took all my time, but it was with my wife so it was fun. A beginning, part-time teacher can do as little as a few hours a week.
What Is the Most Difficult Part of Your Job?
The biggest challenge, which is also the biggest blessing is that it all depends on me. I’m self-motivated, so that’s good, but there are times when I look at someone who just goes to work 9–5 then comes home and can forget it all and I envy them. But not enough to change anything.
What Advice Do You Have for Someone in a Similar Career?
Don’t let the commercial aspect of music override your primary job of making every singer the best they can be. It’s up to them to then use that as they want. Don’t push for “professional” as that can potentially take all the fun out of singing.
What Kind of Future Do You See for This Career?
There will always be a good future for gifted, inspirited and well-trained teachers and coaches. That doesn’t necessarily mean big buck, just lots of satisfaction. (You didn’t know I like to write so much, did you? Okay, here we go on the other questions:)
What Does Singing Do for You in the Aspect of Health?
Great question. Singing is very healthy in a number of ways. It feels good and allows expression of emotions. It promotes good, upright, aligned posture which is good for the entire body, excellent for sports and just for life. Singing exercises control breathing which is especially good as we age. Strong, efficient breathing muscles are life-giving. Finally, good singing promotes clear diction which often helps with clear speaking.
Can Anyone Sing or Is It Only Gifted People?
Anyone can sing, but not everyone has accurate pitch. An ear-brain-larynx connection is necessary to sing exactly the right pitch. The majority of people do this naturally, but some must work on ear-training exercises and still others never master it. It’ like fine art. Some people see something and can draw it. Others, like me, see something and better have a camera handy because drawing it just isn’t a gift.
Does It Take Practice to Become Good or Are You Automatically Great at It?
The voice is a physical, mechanical and acoustical instrument. Like sports, singing is a matter of muscle memory and right technique. Some do it somewhat naturally and easily and others need to work through every detail with skilled teachers and coaches. Again, just like sports.
What Was the Earliest Form of Singing?
Humans have always sung. Babies play with singing sounds from the very beginning and all toddlers make up songs. We were created to sing.
What Advice Would You Give for People That Want to Pursue in Singing for a Living?
Singing as a career is a multifaceted undertaking. A total preparation involves not only the obvious part, like singing, but also other aspects of music like music theory and basic keyboard or guitar skills so you are musically literate and can communicate with band members etc. Then, there’s the business part, and publishing and copyright law and marketing, touring and all the rest. There is a lot involved in a singing career, but it all comes down to two key elements: Inspiration and Preparation.